History and Jane Austen
Goodnestone was built by the Bridges family in 1704. Its early history was populated by multiple Sir Brook Bridges, one of whom married an ancestor of the current Lord FitzWalter in 1756. Dating back to the Norman Conquest, the venerable FitzWalter barony is the third oldest surviving title in the English peerage.
Jane Austen was a frequent guest at Goodnestone after her brother married into the family in 1791. His was a double wedding that, along with the house, gardens, country dances and local society, inspired her best-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice.
Born of a reverend and his wife, Jane’s family was not of the social background that would normally have married into the wealthy Bridges of Goodnestone. However, aged 12, her third eldest brother, Edward, had been presented to well-off relatives of his father and this childless couple, Thomas and Catherine Knight, eventually adopted him, introducing him to Kent society and making him their legal heir. This newfound standing enabled his marriage to Elizabeth Bridges on 27th December 1791 in a double wedding that saw her sister, Sophie, marry William Deedes. His inheritance made him an extremely wealthy man, wealthier, reputedly even than Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice.
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